Tom Van Dusen
Record Contributor
NORTH DUNDAS – South Nation Conservation will launch its adventurous and informative Community Lands Geopassport Tour this Saturday (July 21) at Oschmann Forest off Ormond Road in North Dundas.

One of SNC’s most recent land acquisitions, 18-acre Oschmann Forest just west of the Ormond crossroads is the chosen site for the authority’s revamped Maple Education Program previously held at Sand Road Maple Farm, Moose Creek, which draws thousands of participants every spring.

Details of the new program will be provided on Saturday; not only does it demonstrate maple syrup production techniques dating back to First Nations’ traditions, it teaches natural heritage, forest ecology, and ecosystem habitat. South Nation staffers are now trying to line up funding from various agencies to help cover costs of the new program.

The Oschmann location – fairly central to the 4,300 square-km watershed – already boats a 1.2 km walking trail, sugar shack, some equipment used by the family that donated the property, and several important habitat features.

As for the Geopassport Tour, says SNC outreach team lead John Mesman, it’s a real-life treasure hunt through publicly owned forests across the region. The educational component focuses on economical, ecological and social benefits of forests while offering participants a chance to step into nature. Each of 20 hidden geocaches has a coordinate and hint to follow, and includes information on SNC programs and services.

The moral of the story is that forests are an essential part of a healthy watershed; trees filter air and water, reduce erosion and flooding, and provide habitat and food for wildlife. SNC works with municipalities, farmers, partner organizations, and individual residents to increase forest cover which declined by more than four per cent regionally from 2008 to 2014.

The tour comes with a colourful physical handbook or passport which pinpoints cache locations and provides information on various forest components. For example, at Cache One, the lesson is about medicinal trees as relied upon by First Nations who used more than a thousand different plants for food, medicine, materials and in cultural practices.

Cache Five describes “hand-made forests”, keying in on Larose Forest one of the largest plantations in Canada extending across more than 27,000 acres. At Cache Seven, it’s all about invasive species management, and at Cache 10, urban forests come under scrutiny.

Cache 16 looks at “A Natural Legacy”, with George Oschmann in the spotlight for turning his property over to SNC so it remains a “healthy, vibrant forest”. Oschmann Forest is now the “official entrance into the fold of SNC public community lands.”